On its own merits, Get Out is one of the boldest and most exciting moviegoing experiences of this year. To call Jordan Peele’s (of Key & Peele fame) directorial debut confident would be a great understatement. Get Out is uniquely sure of its abilities, so uniquely able to carve out its space between cringe comedy and creeping horror that it would be worth the watch on that alone.
But Get Out already rests in a special place in my heart because I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever had quite so much fun in a movie theater. There are movies that I’ve enjoyed more, that I’ve been more thrilled at, sure. But I don’t think I’ve ever quite felt moviegoing as a collective experience so much as taking in Get Out with an Atlanta audience.
Peele’s debut tells the tale of Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a photographer going to meet the parents of his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams). He’s nervous as Rose hasn’t told her parents that he is a black man. Rose assures that he has nothing to fear from her rich and liberal family. After all, her dad Dean (Bradley Whitford) “would have voted for Obama a third time if he could.”
His nerves are not assuaged by the trip. An early car accident with a deer (that leads to a brief run-in with the police) sets the tone as Chris arrives at the isolated Armitage home, meeting hypnotherapist mother Missy (Catherine Keener) and her off-kilter brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones). The tension of the whole situation begins to ratchet up, especially with the Armitages’ housekeepers Walter (Marcus Henderson) and Georgina (Betty Gabriel) acting particularly strangely.
To say anymore than that would be telling. Trust me, you won’t want me to tell.
Suffice to say, Get Out gets weird and trippy and terrifying in ways you won’t expect. Peele manages to deftly manage tone here, having you laugh your ass off in one scene and clawing your seat in dread in the next.
A lot of that is thanks to Peele’s cast. Kaluuya is an incredibly compelling leading man, that same mixture of vulnerability and steely resolve that made him so fantastic in his role on Black Mirror. The Armitage family could not be more dead-on for their roles, with Bradley Whitford managing to make dad jokes feel threatening, Allison Williams trading on her Girls past and Catherine Keener acting as the most terrifying presence in the whole movie.
Excepting perhaps Betty Gabriel, playing housekeeper Georgina, who manages to exude more menace with one repetition of the word “no” than some actors do with whole scenes and monologues. Peele’s direction helps at every step, but Gabriel manages to put the whole film on edge from the first time she shows up.
On the comedy side though, the whole film is dominated by Lil Rel Howery as Chris’ friend TSA officer/”only sane man” Rod. It is almost impossible to understate how much Howery steals the show, his pitch-perfect delivery on every line eliciting continuous raucous laughter. The biggest laugh is almost a throw-away aside, he’s just that good at his delivery.
That cast is all at service of Peele’s sharp racial observation married to a deft filmmaking hand and a deep knowledge of the tropes of his genre. It’s cliche at this point (especially from me) to say “just like his work on Key & Peele.” But it really does hold true.
Around its Sundance premiere, Peele alluded that the film was more a horror of liberal racism, that never-ending parade of microaggressions brought by a mix of good intentions and ignorance. It’s rare that a horror film makes you want to crawl under your seat and hide before the horror even begins, but that’s just what Get Out does.
A montage at a party of the Armitages’ wealthy friends reveals Get Out‘s intentions. Wealthy white people, all with the best of intentions they assure you, treat Chris like an object. A physical specimen, a symbol of new-cool, a unique urban eye. It wears on you like it wears on Chris to endure this. Even his loving girlfriend seems to look completely past what Chris is going through, unsure why everything is so different this time, getting it just a little too late to fix it.
It’s that constant and wearing dehumanization that informs the more openly horrific second half, and Peele’s script here not only captures those rhythms perfectly, but also manages to use every inch of Chris’ initial introduction into this world to set up the second. Get Out is one of the tightest scripts in some time, almost demanding a second viewing so that the dense detail and call-back can be picked apart.
And what this all comes down to is that Get Out is intensely aware of its audience. There’s a certain victory in seeing a black man overcoming that dehumanization, in seeing through the exploitation and coming out on the other end. It knows how rare seeing that victory can be for its audience, and it leans wholeheartedly into. It also lets its audience have fun and laughs and scares along the way. Get Out is fucking awesome, there’s no smaller way to put that.